Autonomy – Does my business need it?

We’ve all heard the age-old saying “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day…. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”, but sometimes letting go and allowing your employees to do their job is harder than it sounds.

As your business, or team grows, the last thing you want is to hand hold your team members to do their job, when you need to concentrate on the bigger picture (even if you want to and think you should do!)

So how do you foster an autonomous and productive workforce without just leaving them to it?

Our 5 Ways to foster autonomy in your workplace is a good start:

Step 1 – Set Goals, Achievable Goals.

  • It might sound obvious, but set goals and realistic ones.
  • Agree what you want your employee to achieve and by when.
  • Link goals back to the employee’s overall objectives for their annual review

Step 2- Offer Support and Guidance

Once you have given your employees their objectives and set realistic goals, the next step is to offer support and guidance.

  • Do they need to collaborate with anyone in the team or wider business to achieve their goal?
  • Do they need an introductory briefing to get going?
  • Do they need external resource?
  • Do they need additional training or mentoring to achieve the tasks set?

You might think the tasks you have set are well within the employee’s experience, but working practices change – check to see if they need support in any way to deliver and arrange it.

Step 3 – Check In

Fostering a productive and autonomous workforce is the very opposite to micro managing, but it is important as a manager you check in on your team at agreed points within the project to ensure employees are on target to deliver the goals set.

  • Consider the goal and the timeline before setting ‘check-in’ periods.
  • Agree early on check in periods, is the project a fast turnaround type? If so, end of the day ten minute slots might be advisable – if it is a 6-12 months project then fortnightly or monthly check-ins are more appropriate.

Check ins allow both the employee to flag up any concerns and allow the manager to review not just the set task given, but ensure it is still important to the business achieve.

Step 4 – Give feedback

Are they on target? Are they achieving the tasks set and are they doing something creative and different to your approach? If so, tell them, tell them they’re half way there, almost complete, tell them their way is time-efficient and useful. By doing so, it will encourage them to complete the task at hand and enforce an autonomous working environment.

Step 5 – Don’t tell them HOW to do it.

But most of all, the key to cultivating a creative and autonomous workforce is don’t tell them how to do it, just when it needs to be done by.

You never know, they might surprise you and teach you something you didn’t know, for example you could drive from Stafford to Birmingham using the motorway in under an hour– and think your journey is the most effective, your employee could use the train and save ten minutes.  But you both got to the same result – you both got from Stafford to Birmingham within a set time frame, and your employee managed to safely respond to emails during the commute.

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